After living in a society for many years, have you ever stopped to really consider the kind and amount of effect the society has had on you? For example, what aspects of your life are dictated by society’s ideals and values. On the other hand, do you live your life without society having any influence on you at all? Furthermore, is living a life totally unaffected by society even a remote possibility? One aspect of the effect of society on individuals is called social subjectivity. Specifically, social subjectivity refers to an individual’s personal thoughts and mental processes and the effect that a society has had on those thoughts. One of the most common examples of social subjectivity deals with gender. For instance, in today’s United States society, so many electronic voices are female, including GPS systems and a new application released by the iPhone 4S called Siri. Siri is an application that allows users to speak directly into the phone to add appointments, search the internet, and other operations that would generally have to be typed in using a keyboard. One article entitled
“Why Computer Voices Are Mostly Female” seeks to understand the social subjectivity in the gender selection of computer voices. To begin, this article discusses the issue of biology. It has been theorized that individuals are biology predetermined to find female voices more soothing and attracting, which may even be evident before birth. Thus, because it is easier to find a female voice that most people will respond positively to, it makes sense to use a female voice in a computerized voice-interaction. Another theory deals with history. Since many telephone operators and flight attendants have been female throughout history, most people are used to receiving instructions from a female voice. Also, research suggests that individuals prefer female voices over male voices and so GPS makers generally set a female voice as the default. However, this does not run true in all countries. For example, in Germany man prefer a male voice to give them directions and refuse to take directions from a female voice.
So, are Siri and other electronic voice devices justified in using a female voice or are they just simply sexist? The company that produced Siri and many other companies do extensive research before releasing a final product. Also, although Siri does not give other voice options, many other computerized voice devices do give users many voice options, but the female voice is generally the default. It is difficult to call these companies sexist because they are simply perpetuating the social subjectivity of gender. Basically, they are giving the customers what they want, which is an attractive female voice to listen to. The social subjectivity and stereotypes that already exist in society prompt companies to follow them to give the best product to the customers and make the most money. Although companies may be perpetuating stereotypes, they are doing the best job of releasing the best products.